CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) is an architectural protein involved in the three-dimensional (3D) organization of chromatin. In this study, we assayed the 3D genomic contact profiles of a large number of CTCF binding sites with high-resolution 4C-seq. As recently reported, our data also suggest that chromatin loops preferentially form between CTCF binding sites oriented in a convergent manner. To directly test this, we used CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to delete core CTCF binding sites in three loci, including the CTCF site in the Sox2 super-enhancer. In all instances, CTCF and cohesin recruitment were lost, and chromatin loops with distal, convergent CTCF sites were disrupted or destabilized. Re-insertion of oppositely oriented CTCF recognition sequences restored CTCF and cohesin recruitment, but did not re-establish chromatin loops. We conclude that CTCF binding polarity plays a functional role in the formation of higher-order chromatin structure.
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